Bears' shot at No. 1 seed still alive after Saints win

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Bears' shot at No. 1 seed still alive after Saints win

Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010
1:57 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Well, from the Chicago Bears, thank you very much, New Orleans Saints.

Drew Brees rallying the Saints for a win over Atlanta (only the second GeorgiaDome loss for Matt Ryan) gave a little more life to the Bears outside shot at the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Saints and Falcons still need to both lose next weekend, which is a collective longshot because both are home, but anything that tilts the Bears toward playing the Green Bay game like it matters, the better for the Bears.

As I alluded to Monday, the Bears definitely benefit from a bye but not necessarily when they coast with resting starters in their final games of seasons. What that does is give certain key starters a de facto three-week break from intense prep, since the week before the last game isnt spent with the pedal all the way down if you know youre not playing. Thats just human nature. And then you have the actual bye week, and then finally comes the get-back-to-work.

You have to like the Bears chances in any case. And if Carolina and Tampa Bay can trip up Atlanta and New Orleans next Sunday, who knows?

Interesting perspective

FoxSports.com NFL vet and good friend Alex Marvez was in town for the Jets game (and some good jazz with Cyrus Chestnut at The Jazz Showcase awesome!). He also took an interesting look at the improbable Bears, improbable perhaps only because of some of the second-chance guys that have been instrumental in whats happened this season in Chicago.

Consider the number of key figures that have reinvented or re-started themselves as part of this Bears team: Mike Martz, Rod Marinelli, Greg Olsen (a new way of looking at his play), Jay Cutler, others. As Alex notes, not a lot was expected from this team but part of that was because of perceptions, and some very important individuals made some very important changes.

Rostering

It probably wont happen but putting tight end Desmond Clark on the active roster for Green Bay makes some sense. No one has caught more passes (36) lifetime vs. the Packers. Greg Olsen is next with 22 and Clark and Olsen have combined for 5 TD catches against the Packers...

Deal-watching

The three-year contract for defensive tackle Matt Toeaina sets in place a nice solid piece of the future on the defensive line, much as Israel Idonijes contract and extension did in 2006, even before Idonije emerged as the end he is now. The Toeaina pact give the Bears an obvious alternative to Tommie Harris, who isnt likely to be back after this season and likely just needs a fresh start for himself...

Two other contract situations warrant monitoring. Center Olin Kreutz is the only game in town at that position for the Bears and hell be back with a short-term deal. And Matt Forte, whos now the first back in franchise history to total 1,400 all-purpose yards his first three seasons, is up after next season. Look for the Bears to lock him up long-term before he goes to camp in what could be a very lucrative contract year if they dont.

What Forte and the offensive line have done since the off week, along with Jay Cutlers No. 1 conversion rate on third-down passes (54.7 percent), is have Forte averaging 4.7 yards per carry and stand No. 7 in the NFL with 810 total yards from scrimmage.

Huh?

The Bus was always the one that got away for the Bears, who could have drafted him in 1992 and solved running back issues for a long time. But Jerome Bettis as an analyst is a little harder to solve.

Bettis posits the Eagles as the best team in the NFC because of how theyre winning, variety of weapons, the usual stuff. What makes Bettis analysis a little bizarre is his citing the one Eagle blip as the loss to the Bears in Chicago, which he calls arguably the toughest NFC venue.

Really? The venue where the home team lost three times this season, twice to dud teams? And then theres the Georgia Dome, where Atlantas loss Monday to the Saints was exactly the second defeat the Falcons have suffered there in Matt Ryans career.

As I always stress, I have no rooting interest in the Bears (other than when they make my predictions look clairvoyant), but between Bettis proclamation and NFL guru Peter King ranking the Bears No. 7 on his power list, below the Eagles (No. 3) and tied with the Packers, two teams the Bears defeated, its hard to argue with Bears claiming they really dont get a fair share of respect.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Kyle Fuller heads to injured reserve as Bears make other roster moves

Kyle Fuller heads to injured reserve as Bears make other roster moves

The upheaval that has afflicted the 2016 Bears roster ratcheted up a notch late Tuesday when the Bears placed cornerback Kyle Fuller on injured reserve due to a knee injury and shuffled the depth chart elsewhere.

The Bears waived tight end Greg Scruggs, who was making the switch to offense from the defensive line, and linebacker Jonathan Anderson, while moving linebacker John Timu from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. To fortify the defensive line, where nose tackle Eddie Goldman is down indefinitely with an ankle injury, the Bears signed CJ Wilson, a 2010 draft pick of the Green Bay Packers who has played for the Packers, Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions, starting 19 of 78 career games played.

Fuller, the 14th-overall pick of the 2014 draft and once identified as a building block of the Bears defense, underwent knee surgery Aug. 15 while the team went to New England for practices and a preseason game with the Patriots. He had been making significant strides in recovery as far as straight-ahead running but was still hampered with change-of-direction.

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Coach John Fox on Monday said simply that Fuller “has a sore knee. It has some medical things that kind of restrict you. When we get that healed up, he’ll go.”

The IR designation does not necessarily end Fuller’s season. Beginning in 2013, under an agreement between the NFL and Players Association, one player per team may be placed on injured reserve and later be brought back to the active roster. That player must sit out six weeks and cannot be activated for an additional two weeks.

With inside linebacker Danny Trevathan out following surgery on his thumb, Anderson had been expected to see additional playing time, possibly with the No. 1 unit. But rookie Nick Kwiatkoski started Sunday at Dallas in the base 3-4 and Christian Jones cycled in with sub packages.

Three starting points for the Bears to salvage their 2016 season

Three starting points for the Bears to salvage their 2016 season

As the noted philosopher once intoned, the past is for cowards and losers. Applied to the 2016 Bears, the latter already applies, though not wanting to look at the recent past shouldn’t be taken as evidence of cowardice, just not wanting to revisit pain.

Looking to the future is the obvious only option for an 0-3 football team.

“You’ve just got to go into every week like it’s a new week,” said linebacker Jerrell Freeman, one of the few encouraging parts of an injury-speckled defense, whose 34 tackles are approaching twice those of No. 2 Jacoby Glenn (19), with four tackles for loss vs. no one else with more than two.

“Every week is a new season regardless of whether you’re winning or losing. You can’t look back, you always have to look forward. Because if not, you won’t give the next team the respect they deserve and have another bad result.”

But the fan base can be excused for expecting a next bad result simply because the Bears have given zero indications that the future will be any better than the immediate past.

That is the signal concern: Who turns this around or, for that matter, even slows the rate of descent?

No Bears team has made the playoffs in a season that began with three straight losses. The 1932 team was winless in its first three, but those at least were scoreless ties. So postseason isn’t a relevant concept anymore except possibly as some sort of punchline.

But one vintage NFL axiom is that things from a game are seldom as bad upon later review than you thought they were at the time (they’re also never as good, either, but good hasn’t shown up yet). And turnarounds do happen.

But those do have to start somewhere. Any Bears season course correction for 2016 has three possible starting points:

A defensive 'village'

The Bears do not have elite talent on defense, meaning that the solution can come only from a marshaling of forces that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

John Fox teams are built on defense, and consensus had the Bears as potentially a top-10 defense before the successive miseries vs. Houston, Philadelphia and Dallas. The Bears have zero defensive star power at this point, which is a problem, by way of understatement.

Fox’s 2011 Denver team started 1-4, then reversed itself and made the playoffs at 8-8 with Tim Tebow as quarterback. (It also had Marion Barber stepping out of bounds and later fumbling away the Bears game, but never mind that for now.) But that team had Elvis Dumervil and a rookie Von Miller combining for 21 sacks. The Bears have a total of four sacks, and players representing 1.5 of those (Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan) are out indefinitely with injuries.

But linebacker Willie Young cut to the chase: “We have to control the running game before we can have fun in the backfield,” he said after the debacle in Dallas with the Cowboys rushing for 200 yards. “I don’t know what was going on. All I could do is ask the guys to give me all you got. One play at a time, just give me all you’ve got.”

That would be a place to start.

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Remember the 'Run and Shoop' offense?

John Shoop might have been the object of ridicule as Bears offensive coordinator. But when he took over after the defection of Gary Crowton to coach BYU, the Bears won two of their last three by running to the point of tackle James “Big Cat” Williams, nicknaming the offense the “Run and Shoop” offense. The linemen loved it initially because Shoop simply loaded up and ran the football and, most important, stayed with the plan.

The point is not to become plodding, which Shoop’s offense ultimately became. But the Bears abandoned the run at Dallas when they trailed 24-3 at halftime, even though they had the ball to start the third quarter and with one defensive stop after a touchdown could have been working to get within one score.

“It could have flipped quickly,” guard Kyle Long said. “One drive, it turns into a seven-point game, and that’s the NFL.”

The need for the Bears to run the football isn’t really worth spending time on. Obvious. The offensive line was built for running the football. But for various reasons coordinator Dowell Loggains has not had success with what was supposed to be the foundation of the offense. The Bears cannot win by being a pass-based team, regardless of whether Jay Cutler or Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley is doing the throwing.

The Bears will not be blowing out many, if any, teams. Their best option is to wear opponents down in first halves, live with Jordan Howard/Joique Bell/whomever netting 50 to 60 yards in a first half, then turning the two- to three-yard runs of the first half into four- to six-yarders in the second.

Shoop would like that.

Get one win

Playoff chances mean nothing. How good or bad the Bears are means nothing. All that matters is winning, not games, but one game. The next game. As Fox and other players have said, the Bears have not put together one complete game yet. That is not going to happen automatically, but one play, one quarter, one half at a time.

And they know it. “You want to win games,” Freeman said. “There’s no panic. There’s a sense of urgency, that’s for sure. We’ve got to put out this fire and put it out quick, like yesterday or the day before.”